Cheryl Lynn is an American singer who is popularly known for her 1978 disco hit “Got To Be Real.” A product of the talent-cum-comedy program The Goon Show, Lynda Cheryl Smith was offered a recording deal right after her appearance on that NBC-run show. She was signed to Columbia Records where she eventually recorded “Got to Be Real,” which went to #12 on the pop charts in 1978. Under Columbia, Cheryl Lynn would then score other charting singles such as “Star Love,” “Shake It Up Tonight,” and “Encore.” Cheryl Lynn would then collaborate with other artists such as Toto (whose keyboardist, David Paich, co-wrote “Got to Be Real”), Richard Marx, Luther Vandross, and Teddy Riley. In 2005, “Got to Be Real” became an inductee on the Dance Music Hall of Fame.
From a shy girl to a singing sensation on the “The Goon Show”
Cheryl Lynn was born Lynda Cheryl Smith on March 11, 1957 in Los Angeles, California. Her early life revolved around the church, as her mother was a minister there. She was once too bashful to take up singing solos at their church. She also has had an experience in the theater, having participated at the musical version of The Wizard of Oz, “The Wiz.” There, Cheryl Lynn played the role of Evilene (The Wicked Witch of the West).
Her full-throated singing was recognized by her family and even her boyfriend, who dared her to join the talent search/comedy program The Goon Show or else he would stop dating her. The shy girl reluctantly did join the singing contest.
She capped the competition off by singing her version of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” Her score tied with that of her rival contestant, a juggler, who eventually went on to win. Nevertheless, following Cheryl’s appearance on the The Goon Show, she was wooed by many record labels.
Biggest hit with “Got To Be Real”
When Atlantic Records failed to turn up at its scheduled meeting with Lynn, Columbia Records instead was the one who contracted the young singer. She then worked on a song called “Got to Be Real,” along with David Paich (keyboardist of the band Toto) and composer David Foster.
In 1978, Cheryl Lynn released the disco tune “Got to Be Real” as her first single. The song’s album Cheryl Lynn had been released in the summer of that year. “Got to Be Real” eventually became her first and most successful song, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the R&B singles chart, and #11 on the dance songs chart. It remains her most popular song.
Her album Cheryl Lynn topped off the Billboard 200 at #23 and at #5 on the R&B albums chart.
Other hits by Cheryl Lynn
The second single “Star Love,” reached #62 on the Hot 100. It also peaked at #11 on the dance singles chart and #16 on the R&B chart.
Paich’s band Toto was producing their debut album, and during the recording of what would be Toto’s self-titled LP, Lynn provided the backing vocals of one of its tracks “Georgy Porgy.” The song became a minor pop hit in 1978, and it also gave Toto their only R&B chart placing at #18.
Other notable Cheryl Lynn songs include “Shake It Up Tonight” (#70 pop, #5 dance, #5 R&B) and “Encore” (#69 pop, #6 dance, #1 R&B). Cheryl Lynn also had a brilliant team-up with Luther Vandross. Cheryl Lynn and Vandross’ duet “If This World Were Mine” — included on her fourth LP Instant Love — was their cover of a Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrel duo song.
Other recordings and collaborative projects
Cheryl Lynn spent the 1980s with minor hits as the popularity of disco had faded. These include “At Last You’re Mine,” “Fade to Black,” “Fidelity,” “If You Were Mine,” “New Dress,” “Every Time I Try to Say Goodbye,” and “Whatever It Takes.”
In the early 1990s, Cheryl Lynn had not released any new material. She kept herself busy by working with Richard Marx on his two albums Rush Street and Paid Vacation. She also reunited with Luther Vandross, doing session work for his Your Secret Love LP.
In 1995, Lynn came out with a new album Good Time which was released only in Japan, courtesy of the country’s own record label Avex Trax. It was to be her last studio album to date. Although the album was primarily geared for Japanese release, Good Time’s single “Guarantee for My Heart” managed to make dents on the US R&B and dance singles charts at #28 and #14 respectively.
The year 1996 saw the release of two compilation albums, Got to Be Real: The Best of Cheryl Lynn (Columbia/Legacy) and Got to Be Remixes! (Avex Trax)
As her name rose to popularity in Japan, Cheryl Lynn spent the early part of the new millennium touring that country. She has also performed occasionally in the US, mostly concentrating in her birth city of Los Angeles.
Cheryl Lynn’s trademark song “Got to Be Real” was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Five years later, the song debuted on the UK singles chart, eventually reaching #70.